My husband in his line of work encounters his employees lifestyles first hand. Being a Landscaper he requires multiple employees who are able to do manual labor, and well. Although it is our only income, it has become our ministry. The men that we hire, we end up loving them like we love our family. Regardless of their lifestyles and choices, we love them right where they are.
At times I have been guilty of saying the sentence:
” Why can’t we just hire GOOD people that stay around? Don’t steal from us and respect your equipment?!”
Over the years my heart has been hardened against new employees. I haven’t allowed myself to engage in conversation with them, always expecting the worst. They will lie, cheat and steal from us.
The fact is that we cannot use our past to determine how we treat the current people in our lives. We must always think the best of people, give them a chance before we define them.
I wasn’t always cold to new people, life was once very different for me a few years ago. When we first started out we had this young guy that Matt knew from High school start working for us. The friendship with him was instant. We knew we had a past, and even his current life wasn’t something that was on the right track, but we loved him as he was. After work he would come upstairs and eat dinner with us. Our children developed a special relationship with him. I loved him almost as a Mother loves a son. I wanted to send him home fed and feeling loved. His home life wasn’t ever very peaceful, and you could see the hurt deep in his eyes.
Matt and I are ” fixers”. We both have a deep desire to help people get on the right track morally, financially and socially. Many a night this man slept over at our house with no place to stay. Whoever his current girlfriend was, we loved her too. Matt become more a mentor to this man than a boss. He prayed over him on job sites, and gave him sound advice. He was an excellent worker and leader of the crew he ran. He was smart, handsome and witty. We saw only his highest potential in him. We often called out his destiny out loud to him. We knew his worth was gold. His heart really was pure, despite his actions.
After a few years of picking him up on the side of the road drunk, getting him out on bail, and giving him more sound advice, he ended up in jail with a Federal charge on his record.
We were heartbroken. We knew that HE had to want to change, we couldn’t do the work for him. It was a bittersweet time saying goodbye to him as Matt let him go as an employee.
Employees came and went, we loved on them, but this man was different. The years we missed of his life were spent in prayer for him, as we knew he was in jail, then rehab. We learned what it was like to feel the sting of rejection, as if he didn’t take our advice seriously.
Stay off the streets. Stay off drugs, you can do this. You’ve done it before. We believe in you. You are more than what you do.
Those years that he was away , Matt was constantly thinking of him and praying for him. This man contacted Matt from jail to let him know he was ok.
Loving someone that is an addict is a tricky, gut wrenching relationship. You learn that to remain healthy yourself you cannot bring on the responsibility to keep them sober on your own. It is not your battle to fight, although you want to . Although all you want to do is fix everything. You see the destructive patterns in their lives, and you see an easy out.
It is not that simple.
There is only so much you can say, so many bills you can pay for them to live life, and so many favors you can give before it becomes as if you are being taken advantage of.
As a couple, we believe in second chances. We believe that in Christ all things are possible. We believe the employees we raised up and trained and taught right from wrong – that we somehow made an impression of Christ love for them through our actions. Whether it be standing up for what was right in a situation, or turning the other cheek when things were stolen from us ( many times ). We believed that we left a small legacy of love that they would remember.
I’ve never met a man that loves people like my husband. He stretches me to forgive, and to love people more than I did yesterday. He see’s the good.
Today, this same man sat in my kitchen. I hugged him longer than is probably appropriate to hug another man, but I didn’t care. This man came back to the place he has felt the most loved. He has been clean for over a year, gaining healthy weight and doing well for himself.
This man has story upon story of how God has saved his life. He is seasoned.
When we make ourselves available and obedient to what the Lord wants, this doesn’t always mean that life is easier. Let me repeat that… obedience is often scary for us. Sometimes the Lord will ask us to do things out of our comfort zones, to lean into him for guidance. The thing that saddens me most out of the world today is all the second chances that are dismissed. The lives that could have been transformed by just one phrase.
” I forgive you.”
Having this man in our home again, laughing with him I see a new glow in his eyes. Our family has grown and changed since he left, and our love for him has only gotten stronger. Regardless of where life takes him, and what he chooses from here I am basking in his second chance at life. His second chance to make something of himself.When we choose to love like Jesus, its never safe. But in the end we see lives transformed. There is heartbreak involved in loving someone more than they love themselves. But the tears are worth it for just one person to know real love. Life isn’t about our happiness all the time, it’s about being obedient to what he says. To love who he loves.
Oh Lord, help me love like you do.